ESPN reported that music mogul David Geffen is interested in buying a controlling interest of the Los Angeles Clippers. It would be a brilliant move by Geffen because unlike say Michael Jordan’s recent purchase of the Charlotte Bobcats or the impending sale of The Washington Wizards, this is a franchise that could have a huge financial turnaround under the right owner. Or rather simply just a new owner.
The Clippers are the NBA’s laughingstock not simply because of their godawful history, but more because of their even worse, notoriously cheap owner, Donald T. Sterling. All franchises (except it seems the Lakers) go through tough times. Not long ago, the Portland Trailblazers were nicknamed the Jailblazers, had the league’s highest payroll, and seemed to be going nowhere. Now with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge (and perhaps Greg Oden if he can ever remain healthy), they have a relatively promising future. By contrast, the Clippers may have a nice core too, but few prognosticators would feel 100% confident predicting a better tomorrow for them. This is almost solely due to Sterling’s reluctance to open his wallet.
The thing is, if Sterling was no longer calling the shots, the Clippers would suddenly easily become LeBron James’ number one choice. Currently all of The King’s options have severe limitations. New York has a mediocre supporting cast. Chicago has the ghost of Michael Jordan and no outside shooters (a definite need to space the floor for James). The Nets are still in New Jersey for at least two more years and after 12-win season seem like a poor supporting cast too. Cleveland, as Joakim Noah voiced what we all think, ain’t too exciting as a city, and the supporting cast has plateaued (or dropped off in some instances, like with Big Z and Shaq) and proven itself unable to help James to the Promised Land. Even joining Wade in Miami, as fun as that would be, there’s not much else there, plus the concern of having to share the limelight.
On the other hand, the Clippers would be perfect. They are strong at four out of five positions, with Baron Davis at point, Eric Gordon shooting guard (a great three-point shooter), Blake Griffin power forward, and Chris Kaman at center. Their weakest position is small forward, and wouldn’t ya happen to know, that’s what King James plays! They’re in a major fun city with a modern arena. They have no historical greats, so everything he did would create new records and be unequivocally lauded. Plus, there’d be the excitement of battling Kobe for Los Angeles’ heart. The amount of revenue he’d generate for the team would also ensure that they’d be able to continually afford to surround him with talent.
Unfortunately for Clipper fans, or hell, for basketball fans in general, Sterling has said he will never sell the franchise. He’ll go the grave, clutching and dragging that team down into the ground with him, before he lets it see the light. The thing is, Geffen didn’t say he wants to buy Sterling out, just that he wants 51% ownership. Quite likely if Sterling kept 49% of the franchise and ceded control to Geffen, that future 49% could end end up being more valuable than his current 100%. However, Sterling is an egomaniac of the highest order and he loves being THE owner. I can’t see him taking the status hit for the financial boost, nor being self-aware enough to realize how damaging his presence truly is to the franchise.
Clipper fans, pray David Geffen can convince him otherwise.